GALVESTON — Two candidates for mayor of Galveston have asked a court to force the city to rule Jim Yarbrough ineligible to run for mayor.
Don Mafrige and Elizabeth Beeton filed a petition for a writ of mandamus on Thursday in the 1st Court of Appeals. The petition asks the court to force the city secretary to rule that Yarbrough does not meet the requirements for residency as set out in the city charter.
Responses from Yarbrough and City Secretary Janelle Williams are due Monday.
A lawyer for Mafrige and Beeton asked the city secretary two weeks ago to declare Yarbrough ineligible to run because of a homestead exemption Yarbrough had on a house in Fayette County for eight months in 2013. Beeton and Mafrige said the exemption violates the city’s eligibility rules for candidates running for mayor.
The city charter requires that a person’s “primary physical residence” be in the city limits for at least a year before an election. For a candidate’s address to qualify as a primary residence, the candidate cannot claim a homestead exemption on a property outside of town.
In a statement released the next day, the city said that because Yarbrough’s Fayette County homestead exemption was removed, it was not applicable for the entire year.
At the heart of the dispute is whether the city interpreted the charter’s residency rules correctly. Since the facts are not in dispute, the petition was filed in appellate court, rather than in state district court.
A writ of mandamus is a court order that forces a lower court, public agency or governmental body to perform a specific act it is required by law to do.
Mafrige said Saturday he expected a ruling on the petition within seven to 10 days. He said he and Beeton have not considered any further court action, should the court deny the petition.
“We have a valid argument,” he said. “We’re hoping to obtain a ruling in our favor.”
Beeton could not be reached Saturday for comment.
Yarbrough said the move was not a surprise.
“If they want to keep going down these rabbit trails, we’ll prevail,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble if I didn’t think I was eligible.”